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Detective Inspector Jack Frost is not your ordinary detective. In an environment where the police's every move needs to be transparent, there are a number of rules that they are supposed to follow - unfortunately as far as Jack is concerned, these rules just get in the way of solving crimes, so he ignores them as far as he possibly can. The bane of his Superintendent's life, he nevertheless manages to catch his criminals, and in this fourth series, he needs this knack, as he has five complicated cases to solve.
In the first episode of the series, Paying the Price, the younger sister of a woman has been kidnapped. There seems to be no reason for this; indeed, Frost is initially suspicious of the sister. However, he soon begins to realise that things are a lot more serious than he though. But can he find the kidnap victim before it is too late?
In Unknown Soldiers, Frost is saddled with three cases, none of which seem to be linked, except for the presence of guns in each case. One involves the apparently accidental death of a soldier; Frost is sure that there is more to the death than meets the eye, but the military won't let him near enough to find out more.
A young physiotherapist is found dead, having been murdered in her car in The Things We Do For Love. There seem to be a number of suspects, none of whom are linked - except perhaps by their religious leanings. Can Frost untangle the webs that have been weaved to hide the truth from him?
In the initial scenes of Fun Time for Swingers, a woman commits suicide from the top of a car park. Then a man, who appears to be hiding his identity, is found dead in his own flat. Who is he really and does he have a connection with the suicide? And what on earth is going on down at the cricket club?!
Finally, in Deep Waters, a young girl is pushed down a staircase. Initially convinced that it was an accident, she begins to fear that someone is stalking her; someone who wants to see her dead. Frost is called in to try and find out the truth. But can he do so before it is too late? And can he find the murderer of a local shopkeeper?
Of all of the episodes in this series, I think Unknown Soldiers is probably the weakest. I think it is something to do with the fact that the military are involved, which somehow makes it unpleasant to watch - perhaps it is because my knowledge of the military is limited. Paying the Price is probably my favourite - the pace that this is filmed is hugely exciting, probably all the more so because the victim of the crime is still alive; as is the case with Deep Waters. The plots in each episode are deeply compelling however. I had previously seen Unknown Soldiers and Deep Waters, but luckily couldn't remember the ending, so I was kept on the edge of my seat throughout each episode.
I have to admit that when I first found out that this series was going to be televised, I wasn't particularly impressed. I had read a number of R D Wingfield's books and frankly thought they were a waste of time; badly written and with weak plots. However, being a fan of David Jason, I gave it a try and had my expectations much exceeded. To be honest though, this is not particularly because of David Jason's skills as an actor; but rather because of the superb storylines, which I believe are based around the character of Jack Frost, but written by writers other than R D Wingfield.
David Jason is without a doubt one of the finest actors that we have. Nevertheless, I really am not that keen on him in the role of Jack Frost. There is something about the way that he constantly raises his eyes to the ceiling that I find deeply patronising and annoying. Strangely enough, he does the same in his role as Granville in Open All Hours and I can't help but think that it is because he doesn't play basically 'good' characters as well as he does roles such as Del Boy and Pop Larkin and even Diamond Geezer. Luckily, his role is not so overbearing that it takes over from the storyline and so despite my misgivings, this series is still an excellent one. Apparently, R D Wingfield was disappointed in Jason's portrayal of Frost, believing that he had moved too far away from the books. I personally think that, having read the books, this is not a mistake on the part of the director and screenwriters.
Jack Frost doesn't have a particular sidekick, but rather a whole series of them; he is often given the new kids on the block to ride them in. One of the most frequently occuring detectives with whom he works is Detective Sergeant Toolan, played by John Lyons. I am actually quite surprised that he doesn't appear more often in the show, because he is one of the few members of CID that Frost seems to respect. He appears in four out of five of the episodes in series 4 and I have to admit that I was delighted to see him.
Another colleague that appears regularly is Superintendent Mullett, who has a love/hate relationship with Frost and in fact, is constantly trying to get rid of him. Frost hates paperwork and tries to avoid it at all costs, something that deeply riles Mullett, because it means that his monthly statistics are never handed in on time. Mullett in many ways adds a lot of humour to the show; his constant outbursts at the infuriating Frost are a pleasure to watch. Unfortunately, Jack's knack for solving crime means that Mullett's seniors love him and so it is unlikely that Mullett will ever manage to move Jack on.
I have to mention the superb role as a swinger that Martin Jarvis plays in Fun Time for Swingers. Jarvis plays an out of work actor who does a bit of 'swinging' for money on the side. I have always admired Jarvis as an actor; in this, he is suitably OTT and absolutely brilliant. I really wish he would appear on our TV screens a lot more often than he does.
The series comes as five DVDs, divided into episodes 1 and 2, which are each on their own disc but in one case, episodes 3 and 4 in another case and the final episode, Deep Waters, is on its own disc in its own case. The three cases are bound together by a cardboard sleeve. I think this does make it look a bit cheap - I would much have preferred a classier looking display cover.
As seems to be the case with many series on DVD, there are no extras with this DVD set. Bearing in mind that this series was made in 1996, I am quite surprised - I would have liked to see interviews with the main members of cast and also some information on how the series was written - did the writers, for example, do much research with the police before writing their screenplays?
On the whole, I did very much enjoy the series. However, it was a Christmas present and I can't imagine actually going out and buying the set for myself. It is so often repeated on the television in any case, there isn't much of a need to buy it unless you are a huge fan. However, if you would like to buy it, it is available from play.com for £12.99, which I think is very reasonable.
Running time: 8 hours 27 minutes
Classification: 15 - there are some gory scenes that are not appropriate for young children.